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Forage Brassica: An Alternative Winter Annual Forage

July 14, 2015

Forage Brassica: An Alternative Winter Annual Forage

Turnip Cattle


Providing adequate, high quality forage for grazing in late October through December is difficult to accomplish with traditional winter annuals such as wheat, rye, or ryegrass. Forage brassicas are winter annual crops and are an attractive choice for fall and early winter grazing. They are fast-growing, high in nutritive value, and can complement the existing forage base by closing gaps in forage production, therefore reducing the dependence on stored or purchased feed. Grazing may begin 45 to 60 days after seeding, depending on the species and weather.

Commonly grown forage brassicas species in Arkansas include: turnip, rape, and turnip x rape hybrids. Eight cultivars of forage brassica, a tillage radish, and a commonly used garden variety, seven-top, were tested in on-farm demonstrations and replicated research trials. The nine cultivars tested were: Aerifi (radish), Appin and Barkant (turnips), Barsica, Bonar, and Winfred (rape), and Pasja, T-Raptor, and Vivant (turnip hybrids). Aerifi and Vivant are products of Mtn. View Seed Company. Appin, Bonar, and Pasja are products of Ampac Seed Company. Barkant, Barsica, and T-Raptor are products of Barenbrug Seed Company. Winfred is a product of PGG Seed Company.  Top-yielding varieties produced up to 2,000 lbs per acre by October 22 and 5,500 lbs per acre by early December.


For optimum production brassicas should be planted on a well-firmed prepared seedbed, in an area with good soil drainage and a soil pH of 5.3 to 6.8, soil test phosphorus level of at least 60 lbs. per acre, and soil test potassium level of at least 250 lbs. per acre.  Follow soil test recommendations for the proper amount of lime, phosphorus, and potash fertilizer to apply. Use Arkansas Soil Test Code 210 “Winter Annuals” for the correct fertilizer and lime recommendation.  Apply 40-50 lbs. per acre of nitrogen at time of planting if planting onto a prepared seedbed or onto suppressed sod.  If planting onto lightly disked sod, delay nitrogen application until a successful stand has been established and the plants are three to four inches tall.

Brassica may be seeded as a full stand or planted in a mixture with small grains or ryegrass. The seeding rate for a full stand of forage brassica is 5 lbs/acre. For mixtures with small grain or ryegrass the rate should be 2-3 lbs/acre brassica with 20 lbs/acre ryegrass or 90-100 lbs/acre wheat or rye. Forage brassicas complement traditional winter annual forages such as ryegrass or small grains by providing grazing for livestock in the fall when traditional winter annuals have limited forage production.

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